Grounded in Servitude, We Radiate Compassion

At Valpo, we recognize the importance of building communities and creating opportunities. We ground theory in practice, so that we can reach further than we believed possible. This year, Working Across Vocations Everywhere through Service (WAVES) traveled to the Dominican Republic to accomplish an interdisciplinary service trip that allowed them to see the impact that they can have on the world. Students from the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences teamed up to create a UV powered water filtration system and offer educational services at a local school. Together they learned to lead and serve with humility. 

“I’ve always enjoyed helping people, especially when I can use my hands,” says civil engineering major, Teo Duran ’24. “I also came to Valpo wanting to go on some sort of trip with a campus organization to a Spanish-speaking country. WAVES had this great opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up.”

Teo Duran standing next to the UV water filtration in the Dominican Republic.

This was Teo’s second service trip through Valpo and the experiences that he gained allowed him to immerse himself in a new culture and environment outside of the U.S. The main goal of his team’s project was to create a water filtration system that could be used by the school that the education students were lending their services to as educators in training. 

“I love being able to help people out with my abilities, whether it be helping tear out a flooded home for remodeling or using my engineering knowledge to help install the water filtration system,” says Teo.


The interdisciplinary trip speaks to Valpo’s mission to work across vocations and emphasize the importance of a team dynamic. Service trips work to show students how they can fill in the gaps for one another and accomplish something truly impressive. 

“There are so many rewarding things when it comes to a service trip such as ours,” says elementary education major Emily Heggeland ’24. “We were able to connect with students and teachers over our shared love for learning. While our classrooms or school buildings look different, we are more similar than we think. I also loved seeing the amazement the students experienced when we taught them about water safety. Our hands-on activity allowed them to see how water is filtered, and they were so excited and eager to learn more.”

Our students recognize opportunities to serve and they take them without hesitation and with a natural willingness to learn and improve. As servant leaders, they look to share their light to bridge communities.

“I connected with a student on the first day of our trip, and I loved any time we got to revisit that school,” says Emily. “We played together, danced together, and learned together. Despite the language barrier, my peers and I were able to create bonds with so many students, and I will cherish our relationship with those students forever.”

The skills that Valpo students gain on these service trips do not pertain only to classroom advancement. They also      help to expand their world view and fuel their sense of empathy as they are working with underprivileged communities that lack basic resources.

“After Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic trips, I have realized how much we take for granted,” says elementary education major      Lena Luebbering ’24. “In the U.S., we never think twice about not having a printer, resources from other teachers, or even a curriculum. In these other countries we went to, they would make almost everything they needed. There wasn’t technology readily available and the teachers had to be creative with their lesson planning. It definitely opened my eyes to the art that teaching truly is.”

Education students collaborated with teachers in a variety of settings and observed three different public schools and different types of classrooms. They facilitated hands-on science investigations and discussed the importance of hand washing to avoid spreading germs as well as the importance of drinking clean water. 

“I truly had a shift in perspective because of this trip,” says Emily. “Going into my career, I feel confident I am going to remain a grounded teacher because of this trip. I am less concerned with technology or test scores, but rather I am prioritizing true learning for my students.”

The impact that our students had on the lives of the school children and surrounding communities cannot be measured, but the impact that the communities had on our students is unrivaled in its ability to empower them to keep seeking servant leadership in every aspect of their lives.

“I am excited about the prospect of doing service in the future,” says Teo. “After hearing about Professor Grossman using his engineering services abroad, I am interested in joining a group such as Engineers Without Borders so I may help people with my new knowledge.”

The work that Valpo students accomplished in the Dominican Republic is a testament to what we stand for as a University. We discover who we are through serving and leading within our communities and the world.